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The HP Photosmart A826 is a kiosk-shaped compact photo printer that features a seven-inch touch screen and a stylus. Designed for what HP calls “busy moms,” the A826 streamlines the process of printing photos: it’s as easy as inserting a photo storage card, tapping a screen, and touching the Print icon. Though the A826’s touch-screen interface is a great innovation, its print quality could use some work: in our testing, dark prints looked flat and a little bland. Despite this imperfection, the A826 is a solid device with a unique interface that should set a positive precedent in the printer market.
There’s something important to note about the A826: even though it is a compact photo printer, that doesn’t mean it’s portable. Measuring 14.7 by 15.1 by 10.4 inches with its output and paper trays open and ready to use, the A826 is larger than other compact photo printers we’ve tested. The printer also lacks a handle, so it’d be impractical to try to carry this device around on trips or to events. Rather, the A826 is designed to serve as a personal kiosk or home photo center. Still, the printer could use something to make it easier to grip, in case you wanted to move it from one room to another in your home, for example. The smooth, egg-shaped design makes the A826 slippery and difficult to hold.
The A826’s strength lies in its innovative interface. It’s so innovative, in fact, that it caught the attention of several passersby, who stopped by my cubicle just to look at it. The menu is very intuitive, and I was able to crop photos, add or remove effects, type captions, add frames, and insert clip art with zero hassle. I never had to consult the user manual because the printer operation was completely straightforward. The printer’s ink-level status is clearly displayed in the upper-left hand corner of the screen, so you’ll know when it’s almost time to change the cartridge. To top it off, the A826 offers an option to view your photos in a slideshow, beautifully displayed on the printer’s large, bright screen.
The A826 uses a tri-color ink system (cyan, magenta, and yellow), which means that its blacks are processed—that is, made up of the aforementioned three colors combined rather than coming from a separate cartridge of black ink. As a result, shadows appear to lack depth, making images look a little flat and dull. The printer performed better with brighter images, and you’ll get the best results when printing on HP’s Premium Plus photo paper. Despite my complaint about processed blacks, the A826’s photos look pleasing overall.
When it came to speed, the A826’s performance was about average; it took 1 minute and 29 seconds to print a single photo in our testing at best settings. By way of comparison, the Epson PictureMate Zoom ( )—our Top Product in the portable photo printer category—took 42 seconds, less than half the time, to perform the same test.
|Color Photo quality||Good|
|Black-and-white photo quality||Fair|
Scale = Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor.
|Five 4x6-inch photos||7:11|
Scale = Minutes: Seconds
|Number of inks||Three|
|Cost per 4x6-inch print||29 cents (HP 110 series pack costs $35 and yields 120 photos).|
|Memory cards||CompactFlash Type I and II, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard/Secure MultiMediaCard, xD-Picture Card|
|Printer resolution||Up to 4,800 x 1,200 dpi|
|Special features||Seven-inch touch screen interactive menu; stylus|
Macworld’s buying advice
The HP Photosmart A826 is a great choice for beginning photographers who want to print their digital photos as easily as possible. The printer’s case design could use some improvement for greater ease of handling, and dark prints appear a little dull; but overall, the A826 is an attractive, fun device made just for its intended consumer group—shutterbug hobbyists and scrapbookers. At $250, the A826 isn’t cheap, but its innovative, user-friendly interface makes this printer a worthy investment.
[ Brian Chen is an assistant editor at Macworld.]HP Photosmart A826